The Yeatman: Images of Vila Nova de Gaia’s Grand Hotel

Text by Roy Hersh & Photos by Luiz G. Alberto

I worked my way up the ladder to eventually become food and beverage director of a fine hotel venue in Washington DC, during the hotel daze of my career. So I understand how hotels work from the inside out; but to have a guided tour of a property take over three hours, certainly proved to me … there’s a lot to be seen at The Yeatman.

The nearly 3 hectare property is pitched above the Rio Douro on terraces, comprised of 82 rooms which keep photographers and painters up at night, overlooking one of Europe’s great historic cities, Oporto, across the narrow width of the river.

Adrian Bridge, CEO of The Fladgate Partnership was more like the docent of a museum, an enthused and educational guide, than the man who endured four years of this project, including the construction phase … the “easy” part; followed by the hiring-training-opening phase, a challenge which nobody ever forgets being part of.

During the recent Port Explorer’s Tour our small group gained a unique vantage point, whether outdoors poolside overlooking the Ponte Luis I, or the spa-side indoor infinity pool overlooking a similar view of a slice of the Douro. The mirror effect of this pool’s reflection is something that’s much better seen in person and the twilight and night views are supposed to be surreal.

Each of the five floors of guest rooms offered a different themed décor. My favorite was the map floor which had ancient and old maps by cartographers born with a distinct talent of expressing their time sensitive perspective of the world, Portugal and the Douro. There were several versions of the famous JJ Forrester map of course and then there was the latest version featured by David Eley. Some of the maps were obtained from the collection which resided at The Factory House and they’ll now have a much broader viewing audience.

The attention to detail enveloping The Yeatman is endless; from the simplicity and elegance of the chic customized place settings in the main dining room, to the bedding and appointments within guest rooms to the luxurious accoutrements in the spa and workout facilities. It is obvious even to the casual eye that thousands of hours of planning and execution went into defining this dynamic new property. Zev Robinson captured details of the scope of this project and information about The Fladgate Partnership during his interview with Adrian Bridge, for his upcoming documentary, Life on the Douro.

The inspired wine program is impressive overall, guided deftly by Beatriz Machado, a sharp young and attractive woman who not only put together a compelling list of Port & Douro wines, but she also has a variety of key wineries from the top Portuguese DOC’s doing special wine dinners for the hotel’s clientele, as well as the local food & wine cognoscenti.

The dining room features a list worthy of a great bottle of wine paired with dinner, although Beatriz will show diners the cellar and let them pick their own bottles, or she’ll make suggestions. Seeing the depth on the list is one thing, but when you can walk through the cellar and check out the range of bottles and cases on hand, large formats and interesting verticals, it makes for a striking experience.

I had a close look at the Douro wines and Ports that make up a significant part of this deep cellar and gained insight into Beatriz’ way of thinking. She has had to build a cellar from scratch, including verticals from a number of producers in a variety of regions … a fun job given the resources, but one that requires outstanding planning skills as well as a fine palate and business smarts. This would be an extraordinary career opportunity for anyone, but Beatriz has a plan for how to grow the cellar over the years and it will be fun to watch the wine list and cellar’s evolution under her tutelage. I did not get a feel for her culinary knowledge, as important in wine pairing as the wine itself; but neither did we see the kitchen or meet the chef during our visit. I have little doubt that Ms. Machado will set in place a great foundation for the future drinking pleasure of Yeatman guests.

The cork and keeper above, the former of which is the world’s largest cork, and the latter, the man responsible for getting the hotel built and opened whilst running The Fladgate Partnership. Our visit to the Yeatman was nearly complete as we were to head across the street and meet with David Guimaraens at the Taylor Lodge.

The Yeatman is a bold new destination hotel that will appeal to business travelers looking to enjoy some wine time after their meetings; oeno-tourists fulfilling their desire to explore the city born to Port; locals participating in specially themed winemaker’s dinners, and others seeking a luxurious way to relax in one of the property’s ten spa rooms, all of which lies in close proximity to the confluence of the Douro & Atlantic.

The hotel’s expansive views are second to none as the Yeatman is perfectly positioned inside the heart of Gaia’s Port Lodge district. Occupancy for a single night or a fortnight will ensure post card worthy photos of Oporto from every guest room’s balcony or any one of the twelve suites’. It is unlikely that you’ll ever forget the bespoke Port and wine-centric experience of staying at the Yeatman.

By | 2016-11-18T10:24:05+00:00 March 29th, 2011|Categories: Travel Tales|0 Comments

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